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Winter Sun Part 4 – Santa Elena to Castillo de Baños

Winter Sun Part 4 – Santa Elena to Castillo de Baños

Sun 2nd
I forgot to mention, yesterday, that we are now in Andalusia. We had a quiet night’s sleep and got up refreshed and ready for our customary Sunday brekker of dippy eggs. Never tire of them.

We cleared up and got ready to go out and rig of the day was declared to be shorts. First time out this year!

We popped into the supernercado to get some provisions for a couple of evening meals. Cauliflower Cheese tonight! Mmm. We also bought a bottle of local Tempranillo for a hefty €3.35. We’ll report back on that later!!

Paul had selected a road that would take us into the mountains and he selected well. We were very soon above the clouds, above the circling vultures and had views to die for every which way. It was a stunning road. The sun was out and the air was that very crystal clear you only get in such places.

It’s one of those roads I’d describe as “a wow round every corner”. It was also one of those roads with vertiginous drops and no barriers and very narrow indeed, with an edge like a step rather than gently sloped. We met a few cars, a party of Vespa/Lambretta scooter boys, (one of whom was the dead spit of my brother!) cyclists and bikers and finally a motorcade of 70s/80s sports cars, which drew some oohs and ahs from us! And all with no mishaps.

We stopped in the pretty little town of Aldeaquemada for coffee and mused that we’d put that road – the A6200 – in our top 10 of stunning roads. It was that good. And the National Park is also stunning. If you’re ever nearby, give the A6200 a go. You won’t be disappointed.

We stopped on the return journey to give the boys a walk. Ted was very interested in one particular smell and I realised it was blood. It looked like it had been dripping out of the back of some hunters pick-up. I pulled him away and we walked on – more blood. Blood everywhere. Now call us odd, but we weren’t so keen on that and decided to abandon our walk up that track and head back to the relative safety of our car!

We returned to the van, where I had a snooze and then we strapped the boys on our backs and went out for a bike ride. Paul had spotted a track where we could cycle with boys running alongside. Perfect! It was a beautiful evening for a brisk cycle and we all had a great time again.

Time to cook supper – we both love a bit of cauli cheese. Paul pronounced the wine very drinkable and extremely good value at just £2.80 a bottle. Worrying news!

We appear to have broken the boys – they both happily crashed out for the evening while we watched first the beautiful sunset and then an episode of Sharpe before bed.

Ooh – and Paul mistook the Senora sign for Senor and had his shower in the ladies. Luckily, there’s not too many people about so he wasn’t – like – arrested or anything!

Monday 3rd

Monday morning- sunny and warm. First night with no heating at all – evening and overnight. I’ll soon be complaining about being too hot, don’t you worry! 

Paul worked while I caught up the world, played with the boys and cycled into town to get some fresh bread. It was a lovely ride. And I forgot to wear my cycle helmet. Naughty me. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of an orange tree in town, it’s such a novelty for us Northeners!

I returned triumphant with bread and a big grin – such a joy cycling in the warm sun. I made sandwiches to take with us and we set at off lunchtime as usual for a quick drive to find some provisions. The cauli cheese was lovely by the way and plenty left over for tonight with, perhaps. some sausages? 

WE have made some new friends. These birds – which I now know to be Iberian Azure-winged Magpies, thanks to Twitcher Tim (Crookston) – roost in the trees above us at night and are quite delightful little chaps.

We went for a drive to Arquillos – only because the road went past a couple of reservoirs which we thought might be nice. However, they were both low on water and neither had anywhere to park.

Guadalen Reservoir

It was a nice drive, though, and we were excited to see signs warning us that the area was Iberian Lynx habitat. You don’t see signs like “Beware of Lynxes” and “Lynxes crossing” signs every day.  We were pretty sure we’d never see one as they are very endangered indeed. The Iberian Lynx is the second most endangered species in the world actually. Their main problem is loss of prey – rabbits. 

It is clearly an oil growing area, with olive groves as far as the eye can see. And a pretty little town – although I always wonder in such places what on Earth the people do for a living. Grow olives I guess? Very little sign of animal husbandry in the area, although quite a few intensive chicken farms which you can smell from a fair distance. I find it very depressing that we treat poor defenceless chickens like that. Makes me very sad. 

Olives everywhere

We needed some provisions so popped into the very new- feeling Mercadona in La Carolina.  By now it was 22C. Shopping done, Paul went back to work while I pottered. Someone turned up opposite in a cream Merc estate. Now that’s what I call stylish! 

My quick review of Camping Despeñaperros is that it’s a wonderful place to stay for the NP. It has definitely seen better days, but is clean and has everything you need. We never saw either the shop or the restaurant open, but it’s not surprising, being out of season. There is a track to the side of the site that is great for dog-walks. Santa Elena has a pretty good little supermercato, with butcher. I’d definitely be happy to return. 

Tuesday 4th

We left at 09:15 today. I note that we are getting steadily later – must be the mañana effect? 

It was a lovely sunny morning and 12C as we slipped away from our pitch. The mountains looked beautiful in the early morning haze. We were sad to be leaving this lovely area. 

We were intrigued to see that – as we neared Balién (scene of a battle in the Peninsular War – 1808) the road signs were in (what I assumed to be ) Moorish. Research shows it may have been “Andalusian Arabic”? I guess we’ll never know? But we’ve seen the signs nowhere else. 

The scenery on today’s drive has ranged from breathtaking to jaw-dropping. Our coffee stop was in the middle of a gorge. This is definitely the must scenic leg of our trip. And it’s also the final leg of our outward journey as we arrive at our base for the next 30 nights, later today. And the temperature had risen to 20C. All good. 

And then she did it again. Another Gabby Garmin detour! Paul was on the phone, giving tech support, so there was nothing I could really do to  prevent it.  I just had to watch helplessly and make agonised faces as she took us on a short wild goose chase, off the motorway onto another road, round a couple of roundabouts and straight back onto the road we had just left at the next exit down the line! No real harm done but flipping irritating!  

Like Madrid, the route took us pretty much straight through the heart of Granada. Well – perhaps the right ventricle? Having never been before, I  hadn’t realised it was in such a dramatic location – in a bowl with snow capped mountains all around. And it’s big! And I never realised, until this very day, that my telly in the 70s had come from so far away! But we got great service.

We approached the coast in low cloud – and started to see the infamous Sea of Plastic everywhere. Interesting that it’s been in the news lately and not in a good way. It’s where more than half of Europe’s demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is met. They are grown under the plastic shades that cover this area, The evils of Consumerism again. Exploitation of migrant workers. Poor buggers. 

We arrived on site Camping de Castillo de Baños at 12:40. We took a fair while choosing our pitch, as we’ll be here for a month.  We ended up choosing a pitch that fronts on to the sea. It’ll be nice to drift off to sleep to the sounds of the waves lapping the shore. Not pounding it, please!!! 

We had the usual bloody game with the electricity! We pretty much never have this hassle at home. Why here? Paul fixed it though and he was soon working away merrily while I prepared lunch – a cheese and ham croissant. 

We don’t plan to do much with the rest of today except a spot of orientation. There’s no hurry after all? 

The castle in Castillo de Banos

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